Sunday, November 16, 2014

Help, I need a wife!

Like most people, my life is super busy and so often I wish I could have a wife. Someone who does the domestic things while I go out and have a fulfilling life without the inconvenience of having to the mundane errands and waiting around!

What stuck a cord me while reading Annabel Crabb’s new book The Wife Drought was that it offered such a different angle on the gender and work debate. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants a fresh perspective on the women and work discussion.

She wrote this book to fill a gap in the discussion about gender and work. There is so much literature about how women are disadvantaged in the world of work and how the current paradigm favours men as well as how women should make the system work for them.

But there isn’t much written about men in the world of work and this book asks if men are happy with the current system. She writes ‘we focus our attention on who wins and who loses at work, but we don’t join it up with what is happening at home. As long as we assume that women are the only losers in this situation, nothing will change. Because the truth is that everyone loses in a system like this. Women feel hard done by, men who feel trapped at work, children who don’t see enough of their fathers.’     

So, why are wives so important?

According to Crabb, a wife (it doesn’t always have to be a female, there have been male “wives”) is someone who works a lot less in order to successfully manage the domestic sphere and handles all the things that pop up in everyday life such as visits from the plumber/electrician, goes shopping, chooses a new fridge, spend hours on the phone to the internet provider, and, not to mention looking after kids, elderly parents and associated pets.

Having such support allow men to focus on their careers, which includes staying back in the office, being available to travel (after all they have a wife and, as men, they are not primary responsible for their children) and attend out of hours networking functions.

You couldn’t do all is if you didn’t have a wife to manage your domestic life.

Different experiences and expectations       

While other books on this topic focus on the experiences of women, Crabb’s book includes a look at the role of men in family life and society attitude towards this role.

She rightly notices that while the role of women has changed dramatically over time, men’s role in society has remained stagnant. It is still assumed that they are the main bread winner and the mother of their children will be their primary carer.

Any deviation for that narrative creates huge burdens for everyone. Women feel like there are neglecting their children if they work while also being made to feel like they are not quite present in the workplace.

On the other hand, marriage grounds men – the bachelor lifestyle with its flamboyant is supposed to stop once a guy marries and has children.           

The highlight of Annabel’s discussion was around the lack of opportunity for men to access flexible working arrangements as well as the societal expectation that men won’t make much of a change to his working hours after he has children.
I thought it interesting when she quoted George Megalogenis who said ‘Women have trouble asking for pay rises, and men have trouble asking for time off’. The reason being that it is uncool for men to scale back for the sake of their family or ‘work-life balance’ and doing so makes them look like they are not serious about their career.   

What makes this book different?

While there are a plethora of books and articles on this topic, what Crabb’s book adds to the debate is a unique investigation of the effects of the gender roles and how ‘having a wife’ benefits men. It benefits them economically as well as in regards to their ability to participate in business and public life.

What I also like about Crabb’s book is that, unlike other books on this topic, there is a strong emphasis on men’s role in balancing work and family rather than just only on women and the problems that they face in this area.

You just have to switch on the TV or read the newspapers to notice that the individuals running the companies and in government are men and what often goes unnoticed is the level of support that they require to become captains of industry and government ministers.

Just so you know…..

This book isn’t so much about hating the patriarchy; it is about encouraging men to as for flexibility at work and participate equally in the lives of their family. As Annabel Crabb writes, ‘This is not a book of rage on the whole. And – on the whole – it is not a book about women. Because in all the research and argument and thought that’s been expended over the past five decades on the question of why women don’t succeed at work like men do there’ a great, gaping hole. It is a men shaped hole.

That’s why I liked this book (other than that it is super easy to read and is full of the usual Annabel Crabb charm, wit and grace) because it acknowledges that the problem not just one facing women that has to be solved by women or be dealt with by corporations for their female employees but that men are as much part of the solution as they are part of the problem. Allowing both men and women flexibility at work to have a life out of employment and look after children makes for a better society.     

Why read ‘The Wife Drought’?

I could go on and on about this book as well as quote every idea that I highlighted but I hope I gave you enough of an idea to give this book a try.

It is super easy to read, highly relevant and easily relatable.    

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